406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Sheldon Whitehouse


Thank you Madame Chairman.

President Obama said last week at MIT, “everyone in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that's far more efficient, far cleaner, and provides energy independence for America.” The letters and phone calls I receive from constituents in Rhode Island overwhelmingly support clean energy legislation, and demonstrate the momentum growing behind this effort. Rhode Islanders and Americans across our nation acutely understand the benefits of becoming the world’s leader in clean energy technology and the risks of failing in that endeavor.

Some states like Rhode Island transitioned, at their own expense, to cleaner energy years ago. Other regions of the country are new to this endeavor; but there is emerging a shared sense of purpose across the country. Even my colleagues from our coal states, on and off this Committee, are seriously engaged in this discussion for the first time.

Americans are brought together by our common understanding that our current, fossil fuel energy habit is not sustainable, and by our common recognition that America can, and should, lead the world’s move to a clean energy economy.

The United States has always been at the forefront of technological and economic advancement. From Slater Mill in Pawtucket to the world’s first automobile and airplane, to air conditioning and the light bulb, we put the hand of man on the moon, on Mars, and on Venus, and opened the computer era with the invention of the microprocessor and the Internet. It is in America’s DNA to innovate.

The next great economic revolution is the race to clean energy, yet America continues to rely today on the same fuels and energy sources that fed the manufacturing centers and steam engines of the Industrial Revolution over a century ago.

Oil still accounts for approximately 40% of our total energy needs, and seventy-percent of this oil is imported from foreign countries, many of whom – to put it mildly – are not committed to our best interests.

But we feed the flow to the oil cartel, of hundreds of billions of dollars, rather than step forward into the clean energy economy that beckons, promising clean, abundant, renewable American energy sources. Millions of hard-working Americans could be back on the job building and servicing an American clean energy infrastructure.

In the last 10 years, jobs in the clean energy sector have grown at a rate nearly two and a half times faster than overall jobs. And these jobs can be created anywhere in the country – including states like my own state of Rhode Island, where jobs are now most scarce.

We have only begun to scratch the surface. There is strong and growing domestic demand for wind turbines, solar panels, and advanced batteries, yet almost half of our turbines are imported, only one of the top ten solar component manufacturers calls the United States home, and China, Japan, and Korea are taking the lead in battery research. As John Doerr testified before this Committee, “If you list today’s top thirty companies in solar, wind, and advanced batteries, American companies hold only 6 spots.”

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is key to unshackling America from implicit subsidies to dirty foreign fuels, and putting us on the path toward prosperity and world economic leadership.

History has stood us at this point of choice. Winston Churchill described those small agate points on which the balance of the world turns. We are at one now. We can reach to the clean energy future that beckons, pave the way for jobs and energy independence at home, and show leadership in the world economy abroad. Or we can sit idle, beguiled by the money and spin of polluting industries, and let destiny’s moment pass. The right choice is clear, and I am confident that we will make it, perhaps ultimately in bipartisan fashion.

I hope we can act soon, and I for one have not lost hope that, buoyed by a success on health care reform, we can turn swiftly and with optimism to meeting our responsibilities on this front. And I concur with Senator Kerry that we are not moving too quickly. By all reasonable measures we are moving – and for a long time have been moving – too slowly.

Thank you in particular, Madame Chairman for your inspirational, collegial, passionate, and determined leadership. I yield the remainder of my time.

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